Chefs Kevin O’Donnell and Michael Lombardi first worked together in Italy, so when they were scouting locations in the city for the latest restaurant from the Coda Group, they naturally settled on Italian cuisine. But it wasn’t until they found a space in the South End that they decided on the bacaro, a traditional Venetian wine bar, as the model for the new SRV, which the co-executive chefs will open in early December. “There are a couple of Italian places in the South End. But this style of cooking, Venetian and tapas style, is something we thought would be awesome for the neighborhood,” O’Donnell says.
SRV stands for “Serene Republic of Venice,” and the pair aimed for an authentic Venetian vibe inside the bright space, which shines with a marble-top bar and tables, reclaimed wood floors, an exposed white ceiling, wrought-iron railing and full-length windows that let the sun splash in. The 45-seat private dining room displays succulents and wine bottles on the wall, while the bar area includes stand-up drinking rails, swinging stools and 14 bar seats. But the crown jewel is the 50-seat back patio with brick walls on all four sides.
“We fell in love with the back,” O’Donnell admits. But the two chefs’ excitement extends to two specific parts of the SRV kitchen. The first is the risotto station, where the rice dish will be made to order by a designated toque. And in the basement, there’s a pasta room that will accommodate two people who’ll mill grain, sift the resulting flour “00” style and turn it into hand-cut pasta.
“You can just close the door and make pasta,” O’Donnell says. “And I’m really excited about risotto, cooking it to order. It’s something not a lot of people have tasted before at a restaurant.”
The pasta and risotto dishes will be found among about a dozen items on the grain section of SRV’s menu. A shareable plates section features another dozen or so items that either use traditional Venetian ingredients, such as a radicchio, chorizo and chicory salad, or represent a translation of a classic Venetian dish, such as a roasted pumpkin and squash dish that’s inspired by sweet pumpkins (suca baruca) available from street vendors in Venice. A cicchetti section is ideal for quick snacks alongside a small glass of wine (un’ombra).
“For me, when we lived in Europe, the places with standing and eating cicchetti were my favorite places to go,” says Lombardi, who also worked in France. “You come in, you grab some wine and some cicchetti. For me, I’d be there at like 2 o’clock on a Saturday. It’s part of a more sophisticated bar crawl.”
The bar offerings include an all-Italian wine list, except for Champagne, and a drink program starring Italian liqueurs and one cocktail on tap, an Aperol spritz to start. A beer list curated by the Coda Group’s Michael Moxley will include some hard-to-find Italian craft beers, which began to trickle through the country after the success of the American craft beer movement. It’s that synergy between Italy and America that Lombardi wants to express at SRV.
“We’re not trying to make you think you’re in Venice,” he says. “We’re trying to cook and eat like we’re in Boston, but we’re completely influenced by that culture.”
SRV 569 Columbus Ave., Boston (617-536-9500) srvboston.com